Dale Walker, 85, of Hoboken, shuffled off this mortal coil on March 7, 2021, surrounded by loving family. When asked what he thought his legacy would be, he quickly responded, “Been there. Done that. Left a record.” And that sums it up nicely: a world traveler and inveterate writer who published nine books chronicling his adventures and his unique world view.
Dale lived large. Not in a flamboyant, diamond-pinky-ring kind of way. No, he was as frugal as a monk. Out on the town, he might don a pin-tucked Cuban-style guayabera shirt, but mostly he sourced his clothes from Goodwill. He sported a tribal tattoo from Tahiti, circling his ankle, a souvenir of a trip sponsored by National Geographic. A track star in his youth, Dale strode throughout Hoboken and Miami Beach (his winter haven) with a smooth and distinctive gait. In his 50s he started playing tennis and golf, moving nimbly as a cat into his 80s.
Dale lived large because he enjoyed life the way you might eat a ripe peach in the height of summer: inhaling the intoxicating scent as the fuzz tickles your nose, savoring the sweet taste, licking the juice as it runs down your chin, knowing that this fleeting moment will never come again.
Generous of spirit, cheerful and witty, Dale was blessed with a sharp, inquisitive mind. He could quote Shakespearean sonnets and sing a Leadbelly song in the same breath. Nothing made him happier than a gathering of friends to share lively debate. Dale’s kitchen was legendary: friends would gather around his kitchen table to drink, tell stories and vent frustrations. The air, thick with smoke, vibrated with laughter. No topic was taboo around that white enamel table: politics, sex, religion, bizarre customs from around the world, everything and anything was discussed with good cheer, intelligence and curiosity. While Dale rarely dominated the conversation, he had a gift for keeping the stories flowing with well-placed questions (and another pour of beer). “If mankind were ruled by a benevolent philosopher king,” he’d argue with a smile, “all problems would be solved!” (Emphasis on benevolent!)
Born in 1935 in Leon Springs, Texas, (just outside San Antonio) to a struggling farming family, Dale was the last of eight children. He joined the Army in 1955 and was stationed in Germany. Discharged honorably, he used the G.I. Bill to attend San Francisco State University, fell in with the artistic beatnik crowd, and met Ruth Schilber (now Walker), who became his devoted companion for many years. The couple travelled throughout Europe, and lived a year in Peñíscola, Spain, then a quaint fishing village. Dale wrote constantly, sometimes at a crude desk made of a board set on boxes. Writing was a driving force throughout his colorful life.
Returning to the States, the couple visited Hoboken, New Jersey and were pleasantly reminded of Europe. In those days, Hoboken was a town of German immigrants and longshoremen, (no beatniks!) where the Clam Broth House had sawdust on the floor and permitted no women inside. In 1962 the happy couple made Hoboken their home.
In the early 1970s, with the birth of their son, Aron, Dale felt the responsibility of a young mouth to feed. He took a job in Saudi Arabia teaching English to Saudi soldiers, working four different contracts over seven years. Soon, the couple welcomed their daughter Caitlin, born in Saudi Arabia. And Dale continued to write. Eventually he and Ruth saved enough to buy a house, sight unseen, in Hoboken.
Dale returned to Saudi Arabia one last time in 1981 to research a travel book exploring the myth of the sexually hospitable pre-Islamic woman. Fool’s Paradise (Random House, 1988) took eight years to write and was shortlisted for the Pulitzer Prize in 1988. Several magazines such as Reader’s Digest, Commentary and Der Monat published his essays. Always writing, Dale self-published four more books: Natural Enemies (fiction), Sketches of a Texas Boyhood (memoir), Light Spright Bright Tight (poetry), and Arabian Triptych (three travel essays).
Beginning in the 1980s, T. Weed was born, a pseudonym Dale adopted as he penned Letters to the Editor of the Hoboken Reporter. “T. Weed is a local institution and has been controversial, terse, sometimes lighthearted, always provocative.” (Hoboken Reporter). He thoroughly enjoyed sparring with his neighbors in letters, believing that “if you give them enough rope, they’ll hang themselves.” Dale published four books of his collected letters: Enough Rope, More Rope, Dang ‘Em Hang ‘Em, and Roped & Hog-Tied.
In his later years Dale enjoyed backyard gardening, composting kitchen scraps, and fermenting his own sauerkraut. He never did outwit the squirrels who stole fruit from his pear tree.
He is survived by his son Aron Walker, his daughter Caitlin Walker, their mother Ruth Walker, his son-in-law Will Wuillamey, his grandsons William (13) and Dylan (10), as well as many nieces and nephews. Beyond his intimate sphere, Dale leaves a wide swath of friends, correspondents, fellow travelers, and tennis/golf partners too numerous to name. He is predeceased by his parents John Garland and Frances Terressa Walker, and his siblings: Dorothy Rotan, Kay King, John Garland Walker II, Nora Sutton, Isaac Walker, Herbert Walker and Jack Walker.
Last Born (a poem by Dale Walker)
One by one, a year apart, or three
Three girls four boys and then me
Loving family raised me right
Hugs and kisses day and night
We’ll go in the same order, you’ll see
Three girls four boys and then me
But heavy is the lastborn’s plight:
To shut the door and turn off the light
This marks the passing of a remarkable man. He will be sorely missed. Memorials will be held privately by his family.